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Pyalara: cleaning up a village

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 30.07.2009:

Youth Look for Change in Palestinian Villages

By Hilmi Abu Atwan

Young people in the villages of Marda and Bidya in the Salfit district continue their efforts to incur the positive changes in Palestinian rural society that the Youth for Change Project seeks to achieve. In a recent development, young people have been asking to meet with top officials and decision makers in their areas in order to discuss issues of concern to them.

Intensive meetings that were held for young people in eight villages in the Salfit district produced several community projects that were announced on a special TV programme called Raise Your Voice. As a result, a number of senior officials promised to meet with the participants.

The next project, which will take place shortly in Marda and Bidya, aims to clean up the villages. Having cleanliness as their motto, young people from both villages will clean walls around houses and schools by removing all graffiti. The campaign also aims to encourage school children to keep their villages clean and to find creative ways to express their opinions freely without the need to spray paint on the walls.

In a workshop organised by the PYALARA Social Services Department, Bidya Mayor Lutfi Daas said that the young people of today are the leaders of the future. He stressed their role in incurring real change within Palestinian society, adding that “change begins by drawing up well-designed plans.”

Talking about Palestinian youth and their role during the Intifada, Mayor Daas noted, “Graffiti in our society became popular during the first Intifada that broke out in 1987. The Israeli occupation forces chased young Palestinians who were assigned by national factions the task of writing graffiti on the walls and hoisting the Palestinian flag.” However, the mayor stressed that there is no need for the spread of this phenomenon nowadays since “all young Palestinians are able to express their opinions freely.”

The head of the Environment Section at the Salfit Health Directorate, Abdel Karim Bolad, said, “We have to create for ourselves a clean and healthy environment. The Youth for Change Project is about to come to an end, but we must learn from this experience.” He added, “We have to believe that we are able to achieve the best.”

Ayed Salameh, a teacher in Bidya Secondary School, said that the slogans on the walls of the village influence children and “cause them many problems.” He claimed that all official institutions agree that graffiti is a negative phenomenon and that Palestinians everywhere should cooperate in putting an end to it.

Mayor Daas suggested launching an awareness campaign to target youth in the villages of Bidya and Marda, and he pledged to discipline any person who writes on the walls.

Athil Naem, 15, who participated in the workshop said, “This is our village and we have to keep it clean and take care of it so that it becomes a model for other villages.” Addressing the participants, she added, “This is what we can do as young people, and you all have to support us and stand by us.”

The residents of Bidya and Marda talked about the reasons that people write graffiti on the walls. Some said that graffiti is one of the methods of resistance adopted by political factions. They said that this phenomenon has negative aspects and that alternatives must be sought. They suggested that murals be distributed in an organised manner because “murals reflect civilised behaviour.”

Usama Joudeh said that graffiti offers young Palestinians a means to relieve stress resulting from occupation and siege. He added that graffiti is a phenomenon that can be observed everywhere in Palestine. Haj Daoud Ibdah agreed, adding that graffiti distorts the beauty of the villages. He said, “Young Palestinians have to look for other means of expressing what is on their minds and in their hearts, even though many villages are surrounded by razor wires.”

Sireen Abu Bakr, a tenth-grade pupil, asked top officials to provide a special forum for Palestinian youth so that they can express themselves in a positive manner.

Hanin Abu Makr, a facilitator in the Youth for Change Project said that military occupation, stress, and the apartheid Wall put extra pressure on youth. She explained, “The only platforms the youth find are the walls.” Her friend Jamileh Al-Khafash criticised the absence of youth centres and called for the establishment of such centres to encourage the ideas and creativity of young people. She added, “All pupils in Marda and Bidya villages chose this issue as it is urgent for them.”

The village of Marda is surrounded by the Ariel Settlement from the south and the Samaria Highway bypass road from the west and north. According to historical sources, the village was named Marda due to the huge size of its population. The village is located south of Nablus and is 430 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by the villages of Yasuf and Iskaka from the east.

The village of Bidya is about 32 kilometres to the south of Nablus. It has a population of approximately 9,000. It is located in the centre of the Salfit District and is considered an important commercial and economic centre. According to historical sources, Bidya is an Aramaic word that means olive press. It is an ancient Roman village and is full of olive trees and caves.

This Week in Palestine

August 2009

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